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Brexit round-up – 24/01/20

Welcome to this, our latest Brexit round-up. Each week we provide a succinct round-up of the latest news surrounding the Brexit process, so you can keep abreast of the issues which are likely to affect your organisation.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill given Royal Assent

Despite the amendments proposed by the House of Lords and The Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly all voting against the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, it has now passed all stages in Parliament and been given Royal Assent.  MPs rejected all of the changes which were proposed by the House of Lords and the agreement will now enter into UK law and gives the Government permission to ratify it however it does still need to be ratified by the European Parliament.

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House of Lords votes in favour of five amendments to Brexit bill

The House of Lords voted in favour of five amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. These include backing the “Dubs amendment” protecting the rights of refugee children to be reunited with their families in the UK, amendments on EU citizens rights, EU Court of Justice rulings, court independence and changing the bill so it makes note of the Sewel Convention, under which Parliament should not legislate on devolved issues without the consent of the devolved institutions. The amended bill will now return to the Commons. No 10 said they were “disappointed” by the move, but planned to overturn them when the bill returned to the Commons.

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UK’s devolved law-making bodies all vote against Brexit bill

The Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have all now voted against the Brexit bill. Normally the devolved assemblies and parliaments must give their permission before Westminster can legislate on issues that impact them but this has not stopped the Government from pressing ahead with the legislation as it cannot stop the legislation from becoming law. It is the first time legislatures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all refused to consent to UK Government legislation that affects devolved matters. Nicola Sturgeon tweeted “All three devolved parliaments have now rejected the EU Withdrawal Bill – it is unprecedented and momentous. For the UK to ignore that reality will simply demonstrate how broken the Westminster system is.”

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UK’s immigration system to become “more equal”

Speaking at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, Boris Johnson has said that following Brexit the UK will introduce a points based immigration system by January 2021 where people wanting to work in the UK would be assigned points based on a number of professional and personal characteristics such as education levels. He said “By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be.” Currently, under freedom of movement, EU citizens do not need a visa to work in the UK, but immigrants from outside the EU are subject to a points system based on English language skills, being sponsored by a company and meeting a salary threshold however this is expected to end after the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

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Businesses warned food prices may rise post Brexit

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, has vowed to end alignment with EU rules after Brexit and has warned businesses that food prices may rise and jobs may be affected as a result. He said “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule-taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year.” He has declined to specify which EU rules he wanted to drop, but said some businesses would benefit from Brexit, while others would not. The Food and Drink Federation said the proposals were likely to cause food prices to rise at the end of this year and Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation, said “We also have to make sure the Government clearly understands what the consequences will be for industries like ours if they go ahead and change our trading terms.”

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Gibraltar-EU travel deal to form part of Brexit negotiations

A UK Government spokesperson has said that Gibraltar’s arrangement for travel post Brexit would form part of UK-EU talks on future relations which means that it cannot independently negotiate a passport-free travel deal with the EU. The UK Government is determined to lower immigration from the EU but there are currently around 15,000 people who enter Gibraltar daily from Spain for work. A UK spokesperson said “After we leave, the UK will be negotiating the future relationship with the EU on behalf of the whole UK family, including Gibraltar. Working closely together, the UK and Gibraltar Governments have always supported arrangements at the border with Spain which promote fluidity and shared prosperity in the region.”

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options in the lead-up to Brexit, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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